Stop David Brooks Before He Expresses Himself Again

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It was bad enough that The Cabbage was caught on video opining that Bernie Sanders “doesn’t get the working class.” As I wrote on my Facebook page, “Next we’ll hear Donald Trump complain that Joaquín Castro doesn’t get Latinos. Or Richard Dawkins will lecture us that the Pope doesn’t get Catholicism.”

But today Brooks has outdone himself. His column lectures Ta-Nehisi Coates on racism. Someday, when somebody builds the Museum of Clueless White Privilege, this column should be the first exhibit.

Responding to Coates’s new book Between the World and Me about the experience of being a black man in America, Brooks actually whitesplains to Coates that racism in America just isn’t as bad as he thinks it is. At one point he assumes that Coates doesn’t always mean what he wrote literally and accuses Coates (whose main strength as a columnist, IMO, is his masterful and well-researched presentation of American history) of distorting American history. It’s embarrassing. Someone at the New York Times would have done Brooks a favor by killing this column before anyone else saw it.

A big part of Coates’s problem, Brooks thinks, is that he doesn’t appreciate the American dream.

In your anger at the tone of innocence some people adopt to describe the American dream, you reject the dream itself as flimflam. But a dream sullied is not a lie. The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.

Oh, let’s not be patronizing or anything, Mr. Brooks.

This dream is a secular faith that has unified people across every known divide. It has unleashed ennobling energies and mobilized heroic social reform movements. By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future.

I like the “acid of excessive realism.” Does that mean “what people experience in the real world,” by any chance?

Brooks concludes,

Maybe you will find my reactions irksome. Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change.

Ya think?

In any case, you’ve filled my ears unforgettably.

But not head head, apparently. But cabbages aren’t known for their mental acuity.

See also Helmut Monotreme at Sadly, No and Scott Eric Kaufman at Salon.

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29 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Rich (In Name Only) in Reno  •  Jul 17, 2015 @11:49 am

    Let’s not forget the inimitable Driftglass, who’s been calling out David “Punch A Hippy” Brooks for the trite hackneyed revisionist he is for years.

    http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2015/07/richwhitelivesmattertoo.html

  2. joanr16  •  Jul 17, 2015 @12:04 pm

    I wish that column were a real person so i could punch it in the face.— Gene Demby (@GeeDee215) July 17, 2015

    Best. Tweet. Ever.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 17, 2015 @12:16 pm

    What, an asshat!
    Other asshat’s bow before his masterful asshattery!
    Bobo is the Grand Mystic Poobah of Asshattery!!!

    If the NY Times were to ask for contributions to buy-out this asshat’s contract, I’m sure I could find a few loose coins to help out!

    The only people as clueless as this asshat, are usually in fiction!
    And even Chauncey Gardner is a lot brighter – and, certainly much more empathetic!

    Yes, Bobo, write a column “white-splaining” to a brilliant black columnist – something no one ever accused YOU of being – who was raised in a relatively poor section of Baltimore, explaining how he doesn’t know racism like Bobo sees racism..

    If Bobo were any lamer, and a horse, it would be merciful to put his butt down.
    Both for his sake, and for the rest of us!

    JAYZOOS H. KEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERIST!
    WHAT AN ASSHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 17, 2015 @1:30 pm

    I meant brilliant without the “black,” columnist!

    Because not only has Bobo never been black, obviously, he’s never been accused of being a brilliant columnist – except, I guess, by his editors.
    Photo’s of them schtupping with animals and young nekkid children might have something to do with that!

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 17, 2015 @1:39 pm

    One more on that “Jerk:”
    Steve Martin’s memorable line from that funny movie, ‘The Jerk:”

    “My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi… ”

    So, Bobo’s not only an asshat, he’s a JERK!!!

  6. Mike G  •  Jul 17, 2015 @2:11 pm

    Bobo is a dyed in the wool Reaganist:
    “My pretty daydream is just as valid as your unpleasant reality. Plus it’s prettier, so shut up.”

  7. John  •  Jul 17, 2015 @2:47 pm

    I wouldn’t mind living in the oligarchy we live in so much if its spokespeople were a little less clueless. Sheesh, David Brooks!

  8. got a minute  •  Jul 17, 2015 @2:50 pm

    “The acid of excessive realism” = Please don’t trouble my beautiful mind with your petty life experience = David Brooks.

    Thank you, Maha.

  9. JDM  •  Jul 17, 2015 @2:59 pm


    The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.

    Okay, the above: this is some seriously crappy writing. The whole thing is muddled thinking, thoughtless literally, not thinking. But on top of that Brooks is a crappy writer. Some people write well even when what they’re writing is awful. Christopher Hitchens is a, maybe the, prime example. He wrote good, sensible stuff, and he wrote crap. But his writing wasn’t crappy even when he wrote crap.

    Not so Brooks. “the American dream” cannot “cherish” anything, it’s not an actor, which it must be for these 2 Brooks sentences to be sensible. “The American Dream” can be held, it can aspired to, it can fail to work but it cannot fail. It cannot do. It can’t “cherish”, “abandon”, or “transcend”. Those believing it can do those things. Brooks is grasping for a shorthand, and failing, much like he did in his classic bobo/Franklin county nonsense.

    Coates, OTOH, thinks well and writes well.

  10. Swami  •  Jul 17, 2015 @3:00 pm

    Years ago the was an episode on Little House on the Prairie where a little black orphan boy came to Walnut Grove and was temporarily living with the Ingalls family. At school the little boy experienced bullying, prejudice and racism from the other children. He was despondent in his situation of finding acceptance among the other children, and in understanding why he was outcast.
    Naturally, the show having Christian themed underpinnings had a scene where Charles Ingalls came to the little boy to offer encouragement and help him through a difficult understanding. Charles poured it on with the most touching and loving words any man could give to a child. His (the child) being black was a blessing to be treasured because God loved him so. Charles delivered a real tear jerker ( my tears included), in the ideal, filled with beauty,acceptance, and love.
    After Charles finished his lovely speech on how being black was something to be cherished…The little boy responded by asking..Would you want to be black?. Charles couldn’t answer. He just looked at the child in silence.
    I say that just to illustrate the difference between the Cabbage’s American dream and Coate’s American dream. It’s one thing to experience an American dream where the fairness, justice, and equality implied in that dream do manifest,but it’s entirely another when reality slips in, and that dream looses it’s luster.

  11. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 17, 2015 @3:06 pm

    Swami,
    To add insult to stupidity and ignorance, Bobo’s a Canadian!
    Or, at least he was born and partially raised there.

  12. joanr16  •  Jul 17, 2015 @3:12 pm

    Maybe if Bobo watched more old Steve Martin movies and episodes of “Little House on the Prairie,” rather than walking around humming happily to himself like R2D2…. Naw, that’d require way too much subtlety of understanding. Never mind.

  13. JDM  •  Jul 17, 2015 @3:20 pm

    Charles Pierce offers another example of crappy writing in his post about Brooks.

    “​That is one helluva passage right there. The dream is a faith but Coates can dissolve it with acid and destroy a star at the same time you are trapping generations.”

    http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a36512/david-brooks-american-dream/

    Thanks for bringing up that LHOTP episode, swami. I used to watch it but had forgotten that one.

  14. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 17, 2015 @3:41 pm

    One last comment before I drop Bobo – sadly, not from a plane, without a parachute, and holding an anvil.

    Yes, he’s an asshat and a jerk!
    But, he’s an asshat and a jerk, with…
    Wait for it:
    “Humility!”

  15. csm  •  Jul 17, 2015 @3:46 pm

    Brooks has reached peak stupid here. He thinks he’s written a column in the time honored, racist tradition of putting that uppity Coates in his place for bumptious walking and getting bigitty by daring to know something about race. When what he’s really done is turn himself into a latter day Boss Hogg straight outta the Dukes of Hazzard.

  16. paradoctor  •  Jul 17, 2015 @6:13 pm

    “The acid of excessive realism”?!

    Dude be _trippin’_.
    He’s suffering from the surrealism of excessive acid!

  17. Ed  •  Jul 17, 2015 @6:42 pm

    Anyone remember the movie “Hollywood Shuffle”? It had a scene at Black Acting School where a black actor is being told how to act blacker by a white acting coach, and how to sound like a real tough inner city drug dealer/pimp/ex-con.

    Gotta see that again.

  18. Monty  •  Jul 17, 2015 @7:36 pm

    Awesome display of the passive-aggressive form there, Mr Brooks.

  19. Doug  •  Jul 17, 2015 @9:57 pm

    Brooks wasn’t trying to engage reason nor did he make any attempt to refute the facts or history which TNC employs. Brooks was trying to validate the bigotry of bigots who don’t want to admit their bias. This Brooks accomplished with skill.

  20. goatherd  •  Jul 18, 2015 @8:42 am

    My hypothesis regarding David Brooks begins with the assumption that he is a lot smarter than I am, so he must be aware of what he is doing, probably, precisely aware. He also knows his audience, and enough about the glitches and biases in the human mind to churn out a marketable, consumable product. The deception isn’t aimed at you and me, it’s aimed at the people who want, or desperately need the services of a publicly recognized intellectual to validate their current set of received wisdom and opinions.

    David Brooks is a “brand.” His schtick is the dispassionate, educated and cultured observer, who imparts his insights as mortar to patch the chinks in the wall that surrounds some of us. His place on the gravy train is secure because there is a synergy between his image and his audience. The more he validates them, the more intellectually substantial he becomes.

    He is the reigning monarch of the “smartism.” He is able to produce articles that are remarkably close to complete nonsense, and yet they are perceived by some as wise and penetrating. I think that part of his mojo, is that he truly believes himself to be a Solomonic presence amidst the rude rabble that is the rest of us.

    Regardless of the source of his power, he is a master of his genre.

  21. c u n d gulag  •  Jul 18, 2015 @9:06 am

    goatherd,
    I think you nailed it, brother!

  22. Swami  •  Jul 18, 2015 @9:33 am

    goatherd…. You got it. I just disagree on the point that he’s smarter than you. He might be more adept at sowing confusion by the written word, but to assume his being smarter, even in a hypothetical, is too humbling and a flawed assumption..

  23. goatherd  •  Jul 18, 2015 @10:16 am

    Swami, I’ll quote my favorite line from a job application:

    “I am not too smart, just average. But, I can lift very heavy objects.” In my case, I am getting too old for heavy lifting.

    Aside from that, I find it a whole lot easier to discard the issue of intelligence. We don’t really know what it is. We think that we can measure some aspects of it, so we tend to value those particularities. That kid who was always first to go down in a spelling bee and who failed math turned out to be a phenomenal talent at catching a football and gamesmanship. There were some pretty advanced calculations going on in his brain, they just didn’t come out well when a pencil and paper were involved.

    I couldn’t hold a candle to Dave Brooks’ college career, so I’ll gladly concede that point to him.

    Beyond that, as I have mentioned before, I am fairly certain that I can almost always convince someone of one thing. I can convince them that they are smarter than I am. After that I’ve got them on a reign, if I want to.

    If we have investment in the idea that we are intelligent or have some other virtue that we covet, we’re going to distract ourselves from engagement in the world and distort experience to our liking. Of course, we do this anyway, there is no defense against it.

  24. paradoctor  •  Jul 18, 2015 @12:00 pm

    He’s smarter than you are in same way that my cats are smarter than I am at finding tiny hidey-holes to hide in.

  25. goatherd  •  Jul 18, 2015 @12:52 pm

    If the comment ever makes it through moderation that should on a “rein” and not “reign.” I blame the French! They spell things differently.

  26. grannyeagle  •  Jul 18, 2015 @1:04 pm

    Goatherd: Yes, the French spell things differently and they talk differently, but it is so beautiful to listen to them, IMO.
    I have noticed that people who use spellcheck on their computers often get words mixed up. But it’s okay, we still know what they mean. Maybe it will lead to a whole new language. Or maybe we should go back to hieroglyphics or Chinese. That would be fun!!

  27. goatherd  •  Jul 18, 2015 @3:12 pm

    Yes Grannyeagle, I have been trying to learn French for a couple of years. Learning a new language is a lot more difficult when you get to a certain age, especially if you have the normal hearing loss that most people experience. The other day I was filling out a form at a doctor’s office. I noticed that I had misspelled a few words by doubling consonants that should have been single. The French have a fondness for doubled consonants as you probably know, so I blame my foolish effort. They also seem to employ “gn” a lot more, so there you have it.

    Hearing the words correctly is the hardest part. Spanish is a lot easier. At least reading isn’t as hard as it used to be, I’ve been reading a lot of poetry and short stories over the last year, as well as the occasional article in Le Monde. It’s fun, but progress is very slow. Everyone needs a passtime and it keeps me out of trouble.

    One helpful hint is to watch movies in a foreign language with closed captions or subtitles in that language rather than English. But, as an old codger, I find I need endless repetition. The same with music.

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